1. Size does not equate to competency
People sometimes assume a company with more money, employees, office space etc will be more capable than one with less. This is not necessarily correct. In fact much smaller businesses (or individuals) if they apply themselves intelligently / effectively, are often likely to be able to deliver better quality-and more personalized-services than larger ones. My advice it that you get authentic proof of competency in form of past web design projects (website addresses) the individual or company you want to choose has handled. Go one step further, if possible and request for client contact details so as to verify the claims made.
2. Do they have a business philosophy that protects you, the client?
Customers typically often complain about unriable service providers -including Internet-related service providers. The "newness" of the website concept sometimes can lead to uninitiated business owners getting less than they pay for. For instance, websites could be built with little or no effort made – by the designer – to help the owner understand how to use it to reduce advertising / marketing expenses while increasing sales leads generation. Such costumers would have consistently lost faith in the use of websites for low cost, high impact marketing saying "It does not work!". Ask the designer for details of what they will do for you, to help your website succeed, that others will not. Use the answers you get to compare with others you are considering – it will not be difficult to identify who is offering you the most tangible benefits.
3. What can they do to make managing your site easy and convenient for you?
Is the individual or company you are considering willing to (search for and) incorporated useful tools / resources (eg relevant and appropriate automation) that will equip your website to deliver the results you want at less cost, in less time and using less resources? Ask them for examples of useful automation they have setup on websites-and specific ones that can adapt to suit your biz needs.
Without the intelligent integration of appropriate automation on a website, the challenge of using the website to achieve increased business productivity will, over time become overwhelming. The website should make it more cost-effective, and easier, to put information about your business in front of a wider range of prospects almost effortlessly. Website automation using server-sider custom CGI (Common Gateway Interface) scripting is one of the most common and effective ways to do this. Ask your prospective web designer if s / he is conversant with the use of this technology – or has has reliable access to someone who does. If you get a "No", MAKE SURE you find someone else who can take care of that aspect.
4. Do they have a web marketing strategy for you?
This is the most important one. A competent web designer must demonstrate the willingness to study (and aptitude to understand) your business – including the goals you aim to achieve. Most importantly s / he must be able to tell you – in simple, non-technical English – how the website can be used to further your business goals and objectives. So, ask if s / he has a Web Marketing Strategy in mind to enable you maximize the Returns On Your Investment in the website. If s / he tries to answer, be very worried.
What is a Web Marketing Strategy?
A web marketing strategy is basically a step-by-step plan (that should be developed) based on an understanding of the ultimate purpose you intend to use your website to achieve. If well understood, it will guide you on the specific things to do – daily, weekly etc – in order to leverage your website to get the intended results.
Without a web marketing strategy, you will soon find yourself struggling to justify the money you have spent (and will spend) to keep your website online. I'll be a bit blunt here. Traditional methods can no longer satisfy today's business marketing needs. If you do not have a web marketing strategy, your business will become extinct – and that's putting it mildly too!
One of the many performance metrics currently used by serious business website owners is the Website Conversion Ratio (WCR) computed by dividing the total number of visitors to your website by the number of those visitors who now take action typically to do business with you. The WCR will vary from one website / industry to the other. For instance on the net a typical target WCR is about 3.0% – which means for every 100 visitors to your site, you will only expect about 3 persons to ever do business with you.
This is why you must have a good marketing strategy to ensure that only the "right" visitors (ie who fit the "profile" of your target audience) visit your site. The "right" visitors will institute your "pre-qualified target audience" ie people already interested in what your website offers. A web marketing strategy makes more of the "right" people visit your site giving you a greater chance of getting contacted by more of your potential customers, so you get a chance to "close the sale" and record an increased WCR. Another way of looking at the WCR is by seeing it as a measure of what I like to call the Return On Your Investment (ROYI) in a business website.
One Analogy: A website featuring a product that makes hair grow on bald heads will not interest a person who regularly visits the barber for a full hair cut! The process involved in developing a web marketing strategy will help you craft marketing messages that make those who NEED your product or service recognize the unique benefit your website offers – and therefore otherwise visit it.
The above is not an exhaustive list. I have only highlighted four of the most important issues which if properly added should make your adoption of a web designer end up making you look good in the long term. You might want to visit the http://www.google.com and type the question "How to choose a good web designer to build my website" or a similar query. You will come up links to other useful articles written on the subject. If you think you're too busy, get someone to do it for you. The time you spend on this preparatory stage could save you from making costly mistakes!